Thandi Klaasen was nothing less than a jazz legend. Her career started as a child growing up in the multi-racial Johannesburg suburb of Sophiatown. Her mother was a domestic worker and her father a shoemaker, but her humble origins did not deter her from dreaming big. This jazz legend sadly passed away on Sunday the 15th of January 2017 after a battle with cancer. She will be remembered as an artist who stood the test of time, having had a career which lasted over five decades.

Did you know?

Thandi Klaasen's music ranges in style from brass to Mbaqanga.

As a young primary school girl in Sophiatown, Thandi Klaasen was inspired to become a jazz singer when a group called The Jazz Maniacs visited her school.

She began her career singing in local churches and formed her own female quartet called The Quad Sisters.

Then, in her teens, it seemed her career might be short-lived when she was attacked with an acid bomb that permanently disfigured her face.

As a result, she was forced to spend a year in hospital and she struggled to regain her self-confidence to perform in front of people.

This jazz artist persevered with an iron will and continued to sing, eventually performing with the great divas of the day, Miriam Makeba, Dolly Rathebe, Dorothy Masuka and Sopie Mgcina. In the 1960s she starred in the internationally acclaimed musical, King Kong, by composer Todd Matshikiza.

But, like many of her contemporaries, she decided to go abroad to see her fortune as apartheid was closing down all opportunities for black artists. Here she performed with many international stars, among them Roberta Flack and Patti Labelle, and steadily gained a reputation as a jazz singer.

All the while, she stayed close to her roots and still often used e'Kasi lingo, the colloquial dialect that was spoken in her hometown.

Klaasen has received many honours, most recently the presidential Order of the Baobab in Gold from president Jacob Zuma. This jazz legend will always be remembered for her indomitable spirit and as a person who succeeded against all odds.